R.A-S.H: The Oldsmobile Toronado Troféo


With my first instalment in this series notching up so many page-views you’d think it featured Amber Heard getting up to shenanigans while wearing the wispiest of garments, it’s time for another slice of glossily laminated nostalgia.

I want to keep things relatively level in terms of Pan-Atlantic balance, so this week I offer you the publicity material supplied, in 1990, for a US chariot that I have admired since reading about it in the Observers Book of Cars, when I was seven. Whether I was right or wrong to have admired it so, I’ll leave up to you.

The Oldsmobile Troféo.


The brochure launches to a promising start, opening with a rear view of the car and its full-width tail-lamps, a feature that came and went in the eighties and nineties and which I wish would return post haste. It then leaps straight into the superlatives:

“…Slip behind the leather wrapped steering wheel of the totally restyled Toronado Troféo and prepare your driver instincts for an emotional rush”.

Are you ready? Well are you? I am. And I can still control myself despite this spread being overleaf:


Next panorama is one of the interior and dashboard, about which much hyperbole is piled on:

“…Slip into the Trofeo cockpit” (a lot of slipping going on here…) “…and you surround yourself with the latest user-friendly sophistication- electronic communication that would do a corporate jet proud”.

Well, no. It wouldn’t really, unless said aircraft aims to fly at extremely low altitudes and no faster than a 110mph speedometer will allow, but nevertheless they go on:

“…This is, after all, the age of information. And Toronado Troféo graciously provides it.”

“…With the available Visual Information Centre (VIC), you soar into tomorrow. With its cathode ray tube screen on the instrument panel, you can view up to 51 useful full-color displays


And it was the above that really captured my imagination. When I was 9 and this brochure was produced, Knight-Rider was being re-run on ITV. With both KITT and these mysterious American cars both having dashboard mounted CRTs I just knew that I was hurtling towards a fantastic sci-fi  future. In actual fact dashboard CRTs would disappear in a few years forever, and cars featuring them would never be officially sold in the UK at all. I was sad.

VIC aside, the Toronado Troféo was and still is a very handsome beast. The personal luxury coupe as a concept never really found success in the UK but I reckon I’d turn serious heads if I rocked up outside The Hippodrome in one of these.


And if I never own one, well, at least I have the brochure.

<Disclaimer:- All photos taken by the author are of genuine original manufacturer publicity material, resting on the bonnet of a 1998 Audi A4. All copyright rights remain in the possession of the manufacturer, In this case Oldsmobile, who probably don’t really care any more>

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25 responses to “R.A-S.H: The Oldsmobile Toronado Troféo”

  1. Devin Avatar

    I've always loved how the last-gen Toronado deconstructs the pretty standard – and actually, really over-used – shapes that GM was doing in the late '80s by using the expected cutlines for the lights but just putting painted panels in there. It's like the designers were criticizing the cost-cutting measures forced on them by management through the car's design.
    HOLY MOLY THAT WAS PRETENTIOUS. I hang around too many artists.

    1. Tim Odell Avatar
      Tim Odell

      Unless literally referring to the physical disassembly of something, use "deconstruction" is usually a sign you're headed in an unnecessarily high-minded direction.

    2. skitter Avatar

      Well, it's at least as interesting as "I've always loved how the Toronado used the same cutlines, but with different inserts managed to look completely different, and the designers were probably high-fiving each other for being allowed to spend $5 on brand engineering instead of $0.50."

  2. Batshitbox Avatar

    My favorite part of this long running series is that it's shot entirely on location high atop the hood of your car.

    1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

      Production values? We don't need no stinkin' production values….

      1. longrooffan Avatar

        And it's production values like this we admire.

  3. SSurfer321 Avatar

    I've long had an irrational love of these cars. I kinda sorta still want one…

    1. vroomsocko Avatar

      Your not alone. I forgot these existed, haven't seen on in the wild in years. The hidden headlights won me over then and now. Also, that mobile phone is hella sweet.

  4. CNEAL Avatar

    What's weird is that I saw one of these on the side of the highway the other day but they came and got it fast within the hour of me passing by it and coming back down the same road again

  5. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
    Peter Tanshanomi

    I am glad to know that there are others in our little clan of weirdos who have an overt fondness for this car. IMHO, the final '90-'92 Toronado design was a genuinely handsome, uncharacteristically gracious shape for the time, especially coming from GM. If you ignore the unmistakably American quarter window and C-pillar design, the rest of the exterior could easily be mistaken as Italian.
    Also, I have a question: were all '90-'92 Toronados badged as Troféos? My recollection is that Troféo was started out as an optional trim level, similar to the Eurosport and SS lines.

    1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

      The brochure does list a non-Trofeo Toronado with velour, you know, for cheapskates. Like those plebian folk who bought non-Cartier or Bill Blass Lincolns.

    2. Maymar Avatar

      I suspect most of the people who would've otherwise considered standard Toronados might've just ended up in Rivieras. Or Eldorados. Or Cutlass Calais(es). What I'm trying to say is, damn, GM made a lot of pretty identical coupes.

      1. ptschett Avatar

        The '90 Toronado was an improvement from what came before it, actually… the original 1986 downsized E-bodies were the ones that looked identical to the N-body cars that cost half as much. Even Cadillac's Eldorado was difficult to distinguish from a Coupe de Ville. I read somewhere that GM designed the downsized E-bodies for a world where gas would be $3-4 a gallon in the mid-80's and expected a demand for smaller, more efficient luxury cars.

    3. Joe Avatar

      Lest we forget its brand engineered cousin, the Buick Reatta which carries even more european styling. I don't believe the body was an Italian design (Pininfarina did the Allante) but I seem to recall the body did undergo some non-standard paint process.
      My grandmother had one of these vehicles, an '88 with the one option of 16-way power seats. Between the touchcscreen display and the ability to move the seat halfway to Uzbekistan, My 9-year old self truly believed this thing rivaled the batmobile. Right as I came into driving age, she went on to purchase an //M roadster. Unforgettably the car was given to my older cousin who was a high school cheerleader and couldn't appreciate this car on the level that I do. It was then sent in perfect running order to a donation place for a tax credit.

  6. OA5599 Avatar

    Full-width taillights are still around, on the model that invented them.
    <img src="http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3261/5799104993_85394186f0_o.jpg&quot; width=500>
    <img src="http://images.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/Charger-tail-lights.jpg&quot; width=500>

    1. ptschett Avatar

      Also the other Dodges with model names from the past.
      <img src="http://i847.photobucket.com/albums/ab40/ptschett/Challenger/DSC03931.jpg&quot; width="500"/>
      <img src="http://www.dodge.com/images/gallery/2013/dart/full/2013-dart-rearnight-5.jpg&quot; width="500"/>

    2. mr. mzs zsm msz esq Avatar
      mr. mzs zsm msz esq

      I think Buick did it before with the '65 models: http://hooniverse.info/2012/04/05/nyias-the-very-s… '66 t-bird also had them, but what's worse the ads said they were unique, ha!

  7. Alff Avatar

    Amber. There's a name I haven't Heard in a while, sadly. Is she still 'round?

  8. salguod Avatar

    As a valet in the early 90's, I'm pretty sure I drove one of these, or at least a Toronado. As forgetable and poorly assembled as the rest of the general's fleet. Pretty much everything that GM made from this era ran like it was a quart and a half low on oil. Loud and harsh.
    None the less, I like it simply because it's unique.

  9. TheTurboFridge Avatar

    All Trofeos were Toronados, but not all Toronados were Trofeos.
    I'd better not let my spousal unit see this Hooniverse article. She's still angry over the thinning of the herd that resulted in us selling our Trofeo. Volvo 240, '73 MGB, 240Z, '66 Toronado, or Trofeo? It was a tough choice, but one had to go. We managed to put a little over 70,000 trouble-free miles on the Trofeo; those miles mostly consisted of numerous trips to the Gulf coast (from Missouri) to try to satiate my addiction to the beach.
    The Trofeo had an immense trunk, with room for at least five (normal sized) dead bodies, stacked like cordwood. The back seat was reasonably comfortable, but forget being able to see anything from back there. The interior was spacious for the front passengers, but full of your typical rattles that could be alleviated with some good 3M tape. The front seats were super-comfortable, and on top of having all the usual seat adjustments, the seat was also equipped with three or four air bladders to fine tune your seating position.
    The handling was decent for a car of the time, as all Trofeos came equipped with the 'FE3' suspension package. The Series-1 3.8 made the Trofeo shine the most when going on long distance trips, due to the Series-1 merely sipping fuel at highway speeds, if you kept your foot out of it.
    We ended up selling it to a woman who totalled it just a few days later.
    <img src="http://i153.photobucket.com/albums/s233/ignitethefire65/IMG_0165.jpg&quot; width="600">
    <img src="http://i153.photobucket.com/albums/s233/ignitethefire65/IMG_0141.jpg&quot; width="600">
    <img src="http://i153.photobucket.com/albums/s233/ignitethefire65/IMG_0167.jpg&quot; width="600">
    How about a couple or three of his big brother Toronado we kept, (sadly now too, also gone) thrown in for good measure?
    <img src="http://i153.photobucket.com/albums/s233/ignitethefire65/TORONADO/Picture031.jpg&quot; width="600">
    <img src="http://i153.photobucket.com/albums/s233/ignitethefire65/TORONADO/Picture023.jpg&quot; width="600">
    <img src="http://i153.photobucket.com/albums/s233/ignitethefire65/TORONADO/Picture028.jpg&quot; width="600">

  10. Maymar Avatar

    Regarding the taillights, I assume if we wait long enough, eventually headlights will stretch so far, they'll loop around to the back and reconnect with their counterpart on the other side, accidentally giving us full-width taillights.
    I too, hold a massive soft spot for the late Toronados – the design's aged well, I'm sure it's a decent highway car, and it ticks quite a few of the boxes for interesting beater – almost always cheap, mostly driven by old people, and proven powertrains. I'm also wondering what engine swaps would be easy in these – the 3800S/C seems to be a given, but I'm assuming one of the Northstar variants wouldn't be out of the question either, although I can't make heads or tails of all of GM's full-sized FWD platforms from the past 30 years.

  11. Land Ark Avatar
    Land Ark

    I remember the day the kindly older gentleman who lived 2 houses down brought a brand new one of these home. It was white and had the CRT screen – fully loaded. He invited my neighbor and me over to look it over. I climbed inside and watched as he demonstrated how everything worked. He was extremely proud of that car and I thought it was about the most amazing and ultra-modern car of all time.
    It was the last car he ever bought, he passed away a few years later. My neighbor ended up buying it from his estate and his parents drove it for a good decade after that. I don't know what happened to that car, but I certainly hope it's still soldiering on telling of a future that never materialized.

  12. RichardKopf Avatar

    IIRC, wasn't the CRT available only through MY 1990? I am pretty sure that on the Reatta and Rivera they switched back to a more conventional setup for `91.
    Regardless, beautiful car. I thought these were so cool as a kid.

    1. scott Avatar

      i have a 1992 with the CRT Vic

  13. fede6882 Avatar

    "cathode ray tube screen on the instrument panel", i didn't know there ever was such thing, and now i love this car because it has one.
    also, what does "R.A-S.H." means?